A Money Dojo

First up though, some ontology to make it easier to talk about this – “concrete, subtle, causal”.

The concrete world is the world of atoms. It’s physical and literal. (sometimes called the gross world)

The subtle is the world that sits on top of that. Things like emotion and goodness or the felt/body sense of things.  If I’m having a “good day” technically that’s in the atom world, but practically when it’s described its not literal, nor is it always touchable from inside one mind to another (my good day is lightly transferable to you but I can’t force you to take my good day).

The causal realm, (yes they are more like “realms” than “worlds”) (sometimes called the very subtle). Is described as the place where other realms come from phenomenologically. Where thoughts come from. When I remember where I put the keys, that’s a potentially generative thought that seems to arise from nowhere. It’s causal in that it can cause me to go “aha!” (subtle emotional experience) and get the keys (concrete action), but when talking about the causal we are definitely talking about something different from the atom world.

Ideas and concepts exist in a causal sense and map down to the atom world. (although the way people use causal can sometimes vary and there’s endless debates on it).  As subjective categories they are a bit variable. There’s also the edge where some experiences happen at the edge. A particular way of breathing might be more like an emotion than a concrete despite being both.

I was talking to a friend about money. And I noticed that trading money feels very odd. It always has, transactions feel strange.  All my life transactions have been this odd little awkward dance of retrieving the cash, handing over the cash and receiving the change.  There’s a little bit of social interaction in the process but it’s a bit more odd too.

My friend talked about a skill swap where the feeling of the trade felt more right and they enjoyed the experience much more because it felt like both sides were giving from the emotional part of themselves.

When I make a financial trade it seems to have a concrete realm swap of coinage but does not carry the subtle “made with love” every time. It’s just coins. Or at least I don’t ever think about it when I pay for something or get paid. All the ways the currency had changed hands on the way through me to the rest of the economy.

We talked about buying a loaf of bread and the bread having much more of a subtle and causal than the money. It could have been made with love, as I eat it, it sustains me for extended periods of time and some of those atoms might be here the rest of my life, helping me to generate future ideas and create more value in the world.

So here’s my concept – I don’t notice money having a subtle layer to my experience. It’s just this dull thing to me. I suspect this is part of the problem I have when interfacing and thinking about money.

I have an idea for a group experience, of say 10-15 people, who show up and make cupcake sized food bits and show up with a stack of 50c coins.

Starting with a discussion mentioned above, followed by a round of trading with an emphasis on noticing the interesting subtle experiences of trading coin for foods. Noticing the coins moving around the room. And “feeling” this experience as a group.

Call it a toy economy or just an exploration of each person’s own “my feelings around money”.  Afterwards a discussion of what we found or find. And a sharing of the experience.

  • What’s it like to “create” value?
  • What’s it like to trade value for money?
  • What’s it like to want something more than something else?
  • How does this apply to money in the rest of the world?
  • How do we fit this into the rest of our lives and how we act in the world?
  • What does it feel like to notice the passage of money around the room?
  • Did you spend more or less than others? Faster or slower? Did you spend the same coins or different coins to the ones you received?
  • Any questions you find.

I’d like to run this exercise for a group, and I don’t know how it would go. I don’t know what the take aways are and I would like some comments on how people think it would go and what they might find if they participated in the experience.

A friend of mine has an expression of, “pulling the wings off flies” to describe the way I sometimes facilitate exercises without a lot of structure or without a point in mind. Sometimes throwing people into the deep end and seeing how they flounder and what they bring to the group. In general this annoys my friend and they have a point. Sometimes I don’t know what is going to happen. I am working towards doing that less and having more of a point to each exercise.

I believe there’s something valuable to be found but I don’t know what it is right now and I’d like to find myself some clarity before I facilitate the exercise.


I regularly run exercises in the Sydney Rationality Dojos, usually more structured than this.  I hope to see you there.

Cross posted to lesswrong: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/6MTSZKcPHkGRYwjmE/a-money-dojo

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Alleviating Bipolar with meditation

I was asked on the slack, about bipolar and what might help from a meditation standpoint.  I have my own experiences to share. (standard non-medical advice disclaimer applies here, i’m not qualified to give professional advice and you should probably confirm with a professional if you have doubts about trying any of this.)

Here’s a list of things that might help with the subjective mood swinging of bipolar experience.

1. A broadening of awareness and contexts. 

For about 6 months of time when I was really focused on moods (and 10 years before that), I felt like I didn’t have moods, moods had me (moods distinct from emotions which can be had from moment to moment, moods are more like background, the colour of the day). I would wake up and find out today was “miserable” or “excited”.

I worked on a specific type of meditation practice that is called broadening of awareness (there are 2 different instructions for methods).  I got lucky that this helped me and I wasn’t expecting it. When moods had me, it felt like things “just are” miserable. Now my awareness is broader than the moods and “I”* contain them.  (*meditative “I” and “self” are a rabbit hole)

Instructions: Most people have their sense of their self boundary in line with their skin barrier. “I” end at my skin. But it’s possible to expand that boundary, and shift it to larger. Particularly the “kinetic sphere”, the area where one might be able to reach outside the body, and then further to the whole room size. Holding this “barrier” thing at the size of the room means that I’m “anchored” metaphorically to more solid things than my own body. Obviously “I’m” still the same but my ground is the actual stationary room. Which does not feel moods like my body does. (*explanation of why it helps may be entirely irrelevant, fact is, anecdata: it helped me)

There’s space in my new expanded “me” to find the body being a certain mood but also to find stillness out there in the room which doesn’t get dragged around like the moods do.  I felt the pull of daily moods dry up. Obviously my body is still in grump but “I’m not” mentally trapped in that experience. From there, there’s a new, deeper breathing pattern that supports the broader awareness practice and that’s to be discovered and also hinted at.  I would encourage trying it for a few minutes a day and then going for a permanent shift into what is sometimes described as “spaciousness”.

Instructions 2: awareness specifically in the visual field can be expanded out the peripheral. Start by picking an object straight ahead to look at and focus on. Now expand the awareness to the peripheral of the visual field. Hold there for 30 seconds, then push on towards expanding the peripheral. this works well looking up at the sky, or the ocean because of the broadness of the visual object in the visual field. push the “awareness” beyond the visual field until there’s a sense of spidey-sense tingling to what’s outside the visual field. Hold a broadness of awareness to the visual area and the spidey sense. Try to engage this broad sense regularly and through the day, try to live in this broad-sense of the world around you. Notice that a “mood” is within this sense, not fully covering the whole space. If you work at the broadness, that sense comes.

2. Stages of insight

At the same time as trying that practice, I was cycling through (technical meditation term – can be read about in MCTB2 book) “the stages of insight“. As I would cycle I would hit sensation like fear, and it would call up involuntary intrusive memories about things I feared, then I would the next day have a “when will it end” feeling and wrestle with that one.

For 2, what became important is forming a relationship with the memories that I didn’t like. Due to lots of meditation, I was pretty clear what was normal and what was an intrusive visit from my past. I started asking the question, “why is this here?” and that question eventually turned into, “how is this here to help?” or “what do I need to still learn from this memory?” and that was a huge shift.

After those questions were hard ingrained into my attitude, within a week, shitty memories stopped showing up. Possibly because I got so good at relating to them that I was never calling them, “shitty memories”, and possibly because I never felt shit again about them, I’d just appreciate the lesson that I was to learn.  And from that I stopped cycling nearly as hard. I still notice bits of cycling but I’m above the cycle, not in it.

3 Greater bodily awareness.

a few days ago I wanted a photo of myself, so I put on a fancy shirt and got out of bed to take the photo.  3 minutes later I found myself eating things. When I asked myself what’s going on, because I wasn’t hungry, I noticed that I was cold and I was using food to stop feeling cold. An interesting discovery. I made my way back to warm things.

It’s bodily awareness that helps with the moods and actions. I can feel where in my body (or not) I’m feeling depressed or angry and I can alleviate it via movement or internal sensation and not by outwardly being moody or suffering mood swings.

For this I’ve done a lot of meditation and body scan attention work. Any sensation is relevant, itching the head, the knot in the stomach, the tingle in the toes. It’s all relevant to the way I think.

It’s a rat rationality thing to assume that these sensation experiences are noise but they are not. All sensation is relevant.

Some combination of the 3 have helped me to the point where I doubt I have bipolar any more.  I was fairly confident at one point and now it seems unlikely to be a useful diagnosis.

And if there’s a 4 and 5 it’s, watch sleep and social life and make sure to get enough of both, as well as being aware of instability in both which can start a cycle of instability.  This is from Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy IPSRT – the only therapy designed for bipolar. Fixing my sleep made a big difference, and fixing my mood first thing in the morning did too.

Shoutout to Bipolar Awakenings for being more on the odd-strange-spiritual side of meditative practice towards progress on alleviating bipolar.

Cross posted to: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/qgLyETFo683TqMYNA/alleviating-bipolar-with-meditation

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A quick map of consciousness

Prior knowledge: Many maps lightly held, Leaky concepts, Boundaries

(Well “good” is in the map, not the territory.  This diagram very quickly becomes a mess, but before that happens, let’s talk about reifying the parts of this model to see if it’s useful)

Playing around asking the question “what is consciousness”, yields a great deal of trouble. I don’t really want to pin down what consciousness is but I want to work around it.

To me right now, it seems like consciousness is the ladder between the map and the territory.  In the diagram, on the left is a thought, suggesting that “this is an apple” on the right, pictured is a red apple.  When the attention points at a red apple, the consciousness is filled with a map of declarative definition that labels, names and concludes that this is an apple.  

Consciousness seems to be a label generating machine.  Something fundamental about brains is that they map the territory.  They quest towards mapping the territory.


This brings us to the question of – how do I have a good life.  I have 3 strategies:

1. [content] Look at different apples

2. [map] modify so that there are more positive opinions of apples

3. [relationality] appreciate looking at rotten apples if that’s what’s to look at today.


If I look at dead apples all day, I’m not going to auto-magically have a great day.  On the other hand if I look at great apples, I’m going to be impressed and delighted.  The apple could be replaced with beautiful artwork, nice sunsets, tasty food, nice music.  Whatever strikes in the heart of desire to be attended to. Improve the content is a reasonable and helpful strategy sometimes.

Sometimes it’s not the content that’s the problem.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong with apples but they make me puke.  Then I can try the map.


If every time I see an apple I remember that one time I bit an apple and found half a worm, maybe there’s some work I can do so that I don’t keep thinking worms when I see an apple.  Even sunsets are irrelevant when I’m too busy on my phone. If art galleries remind me of my ex, music reminds me of screeching cats (not in a good way), food reminds me of how fat I am (and how I can’t take care of my body). Maybe the work to be done is in the map.  Sometimes with more and less force, the map can be trained to be less miserable when presented with stimuli. Usually the good stuff is found by passing through the uncomfortable, not avoiding it.

Sometimes I can’t shift the content.  I’m living in the developing world, sometimes sickness and suffering is visible.  Sometimes it’s a very real awareness that if I’m not careful it could be me. That’s where the 3rd method comes in.

There’s parts of the map that start to relate to other parts of the map. That’s what I start to call “relationality”.


I look at an apple.  It reminds me of the time I bit into a worm.  How I relate to that content is flexible. I can feel bad about being dumb that time, or I can look at it and laugh about how ridiculous that was. Maybe thinking of worm-apple-gate is my minds way of warning me to be careful it doesn’t happen again.  That time I went to see the sunset and could not get off my phone, I was upset about something, maybe I’m being reminded to be kind to myself, now I know better. Screeching cats – Hilarious! Food makes me fat, but it’s really really good food.  So tasty! Maybe the question of balancing good food and living!life is worth considering.

I have a chance to see how I’m relating to the content, and I can travel to different maps.  

How?  Slowly.

That process of “travel to different maps” needs to be done in the way of being that travels all the way down the ladder.  If I brute force the attention to move elsewhere, my relationality is “brute force”. My map says, “I gotta brute force my way around here” or “that’s not important” and my content becomes all about the things I avoid.  Sure I can brute force my content to be butterflies not machine guns, but that’s not going to substantially change a map with trouble brewing. I can’t always control what I see. but I can work towards relating to those experiences better.

This post has been quick and dirty. I hope to build on it later.

Cross posted to lesswrong: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/AMnwQDYx97nEp53df/a-quick-map-of-consciousness

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Many Maps, Lightly held

Many maps, lightly held.

As described in The fox and the hedgehog, among other places (munger, systems thinking).  This post holds the theory statement above quite “strong”, to try to clarify the need for it.  It does not apply in some places. For example gravity.  It would be difficult to hold gravity lightly although it’s a neat thought experiment to wonder how brains and thinking might develop differently in a place that didn’t have (almost perfectly) uniform gravity.

I wish I could say the concept of many maps, lightly held was mentioned in Lens that sees it’s flaws – but it was not.  I believe many maps would fit that post if it were around at the time.


A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant, “is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

If I was a blind man feeling at an elephant, I’d need the principle of many maps to make sense of the world and the information it presented.  How can the elephant be both a rope and a spear and a wall? Many maps. Lightly held.


When the platypus was first encountered by Europeans in 1798, a pelt and sketch were sent back to Great Britain by Captain John Hunter, the second Governor of New South Wales.  British scientists’ initial hunch was that the attributes were a hoax. George Shaw, who produced the first description of the animal in the Naturalist’s Miscellany in 1799, stated it was impossible not to entertain doubts as to its genuine nature, and Robert Knox believed it might have been produced by some Asian taxidermist. It was thought that somebody had sewn a duck’s beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal. Shaw even took a pair of scissors to the dried skin to check for stitches.– Wikipedia page for platypus.


Identity, Archetypes, Roles (mother, teacher, boss).  A person can hold many masks in the categories of identities, archetypes or roles.  This is an important and valuable feature: to be able to subscribe to a category. The phrase, “I am a rationalist”, offers a lot of information.  Paul graham suggests, “people can never have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of their identity. By definition they’re partisan”.


In philosophical realism, there is a problem between the split of the information that can be found inside the brain and the information outside the brain.  If we rely only on information outside the brain, then we are proposing that the information inside the brain is entirely useless. We should collect external information and ignore internal information.  This feels like a dangerous trap, there are far too many depressed people to follow external-only reasoning. If we imagine we live in a chinese room, we can’t possibly know if reality is true – through our camera eyeballs and other sensory devices, for all we know we could be living in a simulation.  But this doesn’t feel like a complete picture either.


A short experiment in mysticism.  Hold your breath. For as long as you can.  While you do that, watch your perception of the world.  Watch as it gets heavier, denser, feel the redness in the face, feel the tension of the pressure on the chest.  Feel the sense of reality closing in. And whichever other perceptions you noticed by testing out this state of experience.  Science would happily talk about the (upper right quadrant) phenomena of the body.  The carbon dioxide build up, the oxygen depletion, the heart rate change, the body temperature change.  Oh science! Beautiful science! I love science. Science is hiding something interesting here behind known maps.  Yes, I know the objective maps of what happens when I hold my breath. But do I know the subjective map? What happens to my interior subjective experience when I hold my breath, when I meditate, when I am under stress, when I have an unhealthy diet?  How do I know and deal with the subjective without knowing the subjective in great detail? (and I don’t get the knowledge of the subjective from only trying out holding my breath, although it is a neat experiment).


The fable of the rational vampire.  (I wish I had a link to credit the author).  The rational vampire casually goes through life rationalising away the symptoms – “I’m allergic to garlic”, “I just don’t like the sun”.  “It’s impolite to go into someone’s home uninvited, I’d be mortified if I did that”. “I don’t take selfies” and on it goes. Constant rationalisation.

Each of these problems NEEDS many maps.  To escape the trap of the flawed lens, I need to be resting in a world of many possible lenses.  I need to be willing to hypothesise and entertain that I am a vampire, explaining away my symptoms as if they were allergies and preferences, As well as the concept of being allergic to garlic.  The territory only has one explanation but there are many possible maps.

I need to be willing to consider that I am a brain in a box somewhere – and all the signals of the real world are irrelevant.  And! Still eat healthy because in the case that I do live in the realism world, I need to be prepared for that too.

I need to be willing to pet the elephant ear, and the elephant trunk and believe it’s one animal if the evidence says so.  

I need to live in the world where I am skeptical of the existence of platypuses and willing to check for stitches but also live in a world where it’s possible to believe in their existence at the same time.  

If I want to exist above identities, I need to be willing to be not just my identity, but every other identity too.  I need to be able to safely go to the places of uncomfortable identities and wonder why people occupy them.  I need to know that I can never take off some of these masks but at least I can know that I am wearing them.

How many maps, lightly held, do I use every day…

Cross posted to Lesswrong: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/uvkvccpaaLd4sKJLq/many-maps-lightly-held

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Purposeful spaces. Not safe spaces

My blog is not a safe space.  I’ve never claimed it was a safe space, I’ve never suggested or implied safety or protection or promised I will avoid certain topics.  Having said that, I have never covered rape, politics, religion, ideologies, or anything much more than a pile of science and my own ideas about brains and how they work.  But I could cover any of those if I wanted, because it’s my blog.

My blog is a purposeful space.  I could cover anything, right here and now.  My blog is for the purpose of having a space for me to post content on the internet.

Most of the times I have heard of a safe space, it’s been getting into trouble for not being a safe space.  My problem with safe space is ineffectiveness.  While struggling to articulate why this is a problem, I stumbled across the words that I needed.

A safe space fits inside the broader category of a space that is designated to a particular purpose.  My house is a purposeful space, it’s purpose is to be the residence in which I live. My office is a purposeful space, it’s the space in which I work.  I could live out of my office and work out of my home if I want to.

A purposeful space is defined by intention.  Wikipedia is a purposeful website space for “developing and maintaining open content, wiki-based projects and providing the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge.  A church is a purposeful space for religious worship.  The chess club is a purposeful space for people to meet and play chess.

A purposeful space risks being leaky around the purpose.  People in the chess club can also make friends and be social, some people might go to the chess club and never play chess.  The chess club is not about tiling the universe with ongoing chess games.  But after a while, if more people stand around making friends than playing chess, maybe just maybe it’s time to rename the chess club to “friend club”.

The trouble with a safe space is, what happens when it’s not safe?  What do we do with an unsafe safe space? Do we throw out the cause of the lack of safety?  That feels pretty uncomfortable if it’s a person being thrown out – feels unsafe for that person probably.  Seems like the main thing that a safe space does is cause arguments around the safety or relative lack of safety of the space (although I imagine they can do a lot of good and are designed with positive intention in mind).

In contrast, the purposeful space of the “chess club” reacts differently to a failure of the purpose.  In a purposeful space, anyone can walk in and notice the purpose not being fulfilled. And figure out what we do when that happens.  “It looks like people are not playing chess in the chess club, I thought the purpose of the chess club was to play chess. Who wants to play chess with me?”.

“Well actually this is the friend club, chess club is in the next room over, but you are welcome to stay and be friends”.

The solution to a failed purpose is to do what I might naturally do, “looks like the chess club does not play chess, I am leaving”.  This idea expands, “looks like the Australian Health Party is more concerned about anti-vaccination than it is about my values around health.  I am going to vote for someone else.” (*this policy may have changed) And when reflected to a safe space, “the space that was supposed to be safe doesn’t feel safe to me, I don’t have any safe space to go to!”.

In a purposeful space, who has the ”right” to question the purpose?  That depends on the defined purpose. In the world of smart etherium contracts the evaluation is carried out by existing technological processes.  In the world of humans, a human can evaluate the purpose. Humans have built in machinery to let them evaluate ideas or purposes.  From that, consensus is all that is needed to change a purposeful space back to its purpose.

There is a question of expectation, obligation.  Who is obligated in a purposeful space, who has the right to place any expectations on reality and declare that reality should conform to my desires and expectations?  (I do declare war against the current configuration of the atoms in the universe and desire a different setup)

Private purpose space

See also “No Homers Club”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbXjt_ZlVOE

Some purposeful spaces appear to be public spaces, but in fact don’t act like public spaces.  Yes it’s called the chess club but it’s actually just where Alice goes to hang out with her friends and play poker.  If Bob wants to try to play chess in what is implied as the chess club, he’s going to have a bad time.

What’s the point of labelling it the chess club if that’s not what happens in the room?  I’m going to tag this paragraph, “signalling purposes”. This labelling error is tedious and annoying for anyone trying to sort the universe by it’s arbitrary label.  But maybe a chess club gets tax privilege over a poker club or some other kind of signalling bonus where only a specific kind of person is willing to seek out a chess club, and those are all of the people Alice wants to make friends with.  

Keep an eye out for the hidden purpose of a space.  Not all purposes are obvious. Welcome to reality where sometimes people don’t label reality accurately for any number of internally useful reasons.

Purposeful spaces and unsavory purposes

Sometimes a space is needed to discuss unsavory topics, or process unsavory experiences.  The police need a space where they can talk about terrorist tactics so that they can plan around how to protect society from terrorism.

Therapy needs to be a place that I can embarrassingly express that I fantasise about killing my boss without being condemned and without my boss finding out.  Without the purposeful space and the privacy to describe my fantasy, there would be less safety, I could not address the embarrassment which is bothering me around my fantasy, or the frustration that caused the fantasy, and I could not effectively process that frustration to a more savory and prosocial experience to share with other people.  

The inside of my own head needs to be a space where I can go to unsavory places too.  If I can never entertain that fantasy, I can never process it and let it go, the idea becomes a thorn in my side until it either drives me mad, trying to get me to process it, interact with it, validate that experience or I die with the concept incomplete.

There’s a fear, that if I permit the unsavory, I might actually get to the unconscionable act of killing my boss.  I want to lock down even thinking about permitting those thoughts so that I don’t accidentally do that either.  Suddenly a part of my brain lives in vigilance and fear of what I cannot think (because I’m not allowed). Then guilt.  A layer of feeling bad about the fear about the things I can’t think. Then anger, about feeling guilty, I only feel guilty about hating myself because I believe I am a bad person, then depression, because I can’t be angry all the time, I’m so tired of that.  (and on it goes)

This fear, the layers of emotions, are more likely to do damage than just entertaining that thought to begin with.  And accepting that from the start. In this way, entertaining madness is closer to the sane choice than clinging to sanity is to approaching madness.

It’s not always possible, maybe I don’t feel like I can go to unsavory places on my own.  That’s what good therapy, spirituality or friends are for. Remember, other people’s problems never look as bad as my own.  So maybe there’s a use for sharing problems.

Purposeful spaces are needed.  For healing, growth, training/practice, creativity, play, experimentation/trials, safety, ideas.  And for most of these, already exist.

Foundations for a purposeful space

  • Purpose/intention
  • Privacy/segregation
  • Time + patience
  • Space (free space, spare space)
  • Acceptance/safety
  • wonder/curiosity/willingness

And a question – how many of these are covered by the word “permission” to do these things.

Presently I see with purpose.  I reflectively look at intention.  I rest on a layer above the simple present.  I try to see where that’s coming from. Because maybe then I can navigate the undefined purposes of all the rest of reality.

How do we cultivate possibility without the purposeful intention to do so?  My existence is a purposeful space. The purpose is an unfolding discovery of the purpose of this space.

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Leaky concepts

When is a door not a door?  When it’s Ajar.

See also: motte and bailey fallacy by Scott Alexander,  The 5-second level, Disguised theories, Neural Categories By Eliezer Yudkowsky. No Boundary By Ken Wilber.

Every concept when challenged with reality is a leaky concept (even this one).  The idea of a circle seems pretty great until I try to draw one in chalk on pavement.  If you want to go mad, commit to drawing two lines the same length and don’t stop until you are dead from trying to line up atoms to be in the right places.  There are quicker ways to go insane.

The map-territory distinction makes it difficult to pin down a mapped concept in the territory.  The strange thing about reality is that despite there being a gap between minds, we generally have managed to communicate, to get things done, and to build a world.  This world. The world in which we live in. Bricks and mortar, bits and atoms alike. We did it.  We got to here, even though every concept leaks to all buggery.

Take “science man” in the prehistoric times of the savannah.

Cave man: “run it’s a lion”

Science man: “actually that’s a leopard, judging by its spots, I’d say it’s running at 40mph and will get here- augh!”

*science man gets eaten by leopard*

This silly example hopefully drives home the point of “how much does that leak matter?”.  For most of history, for most conversations the difference between lion and leopard did not matter.  Being right about which it was, had no effect on the basis of the following actions.

We don’t live in that world so much.  We live in the world of The Mars Climate Orbiter, which is now the reason that all space calculations are done in metric.

The discrepancy between calculated and measured position… had been noticed earlier by at least two navigators, whose concerns were dismissed because they “did not follow the rules about filling out [the] form to document their concerns””

“Oh that silly space agency, I’d never make such a mistake…”

“No one in my life has ever tried to say my name and accidentally used my sibling’s name and my dogs name before finally using my name…”

The way we measure or define a concept, and rely on a shared meaning of a concept is not going to be slightly wrong enough to cause serious errors that go unnoticed right up until something terrible happens.  Except for that one time, and that other time…

“Trajectories and locations are measured in local units” – Just a simple belief.

“Human children are named in a relational cluster to myself, my map refers to any name in the cluster of ‘child’ or ‘epsilon’ which is suitable to communicate to this one”

“The difference between lions and leopards are significant in this moment”

There is crack in everything

Everything is leaky!  How did we do it? How did we create a world where we can communicate even though everything leaks?

Most of the time leaking doesn’t matter.  Except when it does. When I need to be able to notice that the concept I was trying to communicate, has more holes than it has substance.  Subjective holes in places that make it a flawed concept.

To a zookeeper, the difference between a lion pen and a leopard pen is a lot more important than to caveman running for his life (probably).  The significance of a leaky concept is subjectively relevant to the person applying it and the effect that the leak will have on their life (their Upper left quadrant, subjective reality).

What do I do with leaky concepts now?  Add it to the toolkit of vigilance of the ways that words can be used and carry on.  Maybe it comes in handy some time.

Bonus content: the way buddhism talks about “the self” as a leaky concept being a foundation for 1/3rd of all the teachings.  There is no fixed self, the edges of the skin are one boundary that can be drawn but the stuff inside that boundary is always changing anyway, and the stuff outside is constantly interacting with it enough to make that boundary arbitrary.

Cross post to lesswrong: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/iSSXfBnCmjqWEb7Pm/leaky-concepts

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Dojo on stress

This (thinking) dojo came about because someone described their biggest problem as stress, relating to recent job-change events.  I ran this dojo in Melbourne and Sydney to an audience of ~10 people each time. (45mins-1hr long)

As the facilitator:

  1. Say yes.  Accept what people bring.  There’s no wrong answer. Each person is bringing the most valuable thing for themselves to the discussion.  
  2. There is a need to balance the group time and let everyone talk if they want to, but generally people are aware of that.  If needed, thank someone and bring their awareness to the fact that this is a group event and everyone needs to participate to grow.  The exercise is not about being right but about sharing and discussing stress.
  3. Make empty space, (time when nothing is said) both for people to think, and for less talkative people to step up and share. Speak slowly, there is no rush.
  4. There is no need to force participation, feel free to mention that anyone can pass at any time.  It might be healthy to model “pass” behaviour at the start by getting everyone to say out loud “pass”.  “What do you say if you don’t want to contribute and you want to pass?” (“PASS” duh)

1. Share a stressful experience.

Each person should share a personal or significant experience of stress that they have encountered in their life.  It doesn’t have to still be “alive”, but it has to be personally relevant to them being engaged in the discussion and get an internal sense of what “stress” is and the sorts of things we are talking about.  (if doing this on your own, write down your experience, spend a few minutes waiting with the memories to get a sense of how it felt to be in the body during that experience, feel free to write more than one down)

(1-2mins per person)

Briefly check for a common theme.  I.e. stress caused by interpersonal relationships or work.  Be mindful of that when continuing the exercise.

2. Causes of stress

Stress usually has a cause in life.  Each person is different, each person will know their own common causes of stress.  Make a list of personal and common causes of stress.

(2 mins alone making a list, 5-10 mins to discuss the general possible causes of stress and build a group list)  (if alone, you can google it, but with emphasis that this exercise is not about getting the right answer, but more about being aware of the parts of the stress problem and playing around with them in mind in one session.)

2. What are the signs of stress.

How would you know someone else was stressed?  How would you know you were stressed? Make a list as a group discussion. There’s a short list at the bottom AFTER you have made your own list of the relevant signs.

(2 mins by timer by ourselves then 10mins for group discussion)  (if alone, spend more time making the list)

Get specific to name a few instances if it helps people participate.  “This one time I was stressed about X and I kept having nightmares”. etc.

3. what do you do about stress?  How do you relieve that stress?

get specific about how to wind down, how to rest, how to relax, feel safe, distract, and more. (list at the bottom AFTER the exercise to compare notes)

(2 mins by timer by ourselves then 10mins for group discussion)  (if alone, spend more time making the list)

Being Strategic

Once we know what causes stress, what stress looks like, and what to do about stress when it comes up, the last thing left to do is to be mindful.  Notice the causes, notice the signs that come up and act appropriately. As long as I am aware of my body, my behaviour and my actions, I can effectively manage my own stress and the stress of the people around me.

4. Anything else we want to share about stress?

How to tell someone else they are stressed without the words coming across like a slap in the face:

  • “I feel like you are stressed”
  • “I noticed you keep pacing, are you stressed?”  
  • (instead of, “you are stressed, stop that”)

Share any other personal stress stories or thoughts that come up from the exercise.  If we are done, go to the conclusion. (10 mins)


Reflect on if this is helpful personally.  How can I tie this into my life. How can I notice the stress?  How can I grow to use this information. Consider reminding myself in a month to check if I still do this.  Consider how I can plan a “stress check” into my weekly routine. Consider how I can make use of this information.  (3-5mins on our own doing what is needed to carry this out) (share any particularly good ones 5 mins)

The following lists are incomplete, they are here for clues, feel free to make your own or ignore these.

Causes of stress

  • Relationships
  • Work
  • Emotions
  • Food/diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Mistakes, accidents
  • Emergencies
  • Surprises
  • Major events or life milestones
  • Big projects
  • Moving house/city
  • Family changes

Stress signs

  • Body based sensations (tightness, sweat, feeling heavy, doom, heart rate)
  • behaviour changes (posture changes, pacing, staying out late, sleep changes)
  • Expressions (face stuff, behaviour, I know I am confused from the confusion expression)
  • Emotions (aaaaah!, Sad, scared, flustered, etc)
  • Energy (lethargy, overactive)
  • Actions (eating more, injury)
  • dreams…  

What do you do about stress?

  • Take a bath
  • Distract myself
  • Leave the room
  • Meditate
  • Play video games
  • Sleep
  • Talk to someone about it
  • Pamper myself
  • Let go of trying to control everything and make sure it goes well
  • Stop doing the thing (sometimes an option)
  • Eat something
  • Concrete checks (have I eaten, drank, slept, got sunlight, spoken to friends) (you feel like shit guide)

Thanks for participating, feel free to get in touch with feedback.

Cross posted to lesswrong: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/mxv78X93gRses85Za/dojo-on-stress

Google doc for comments: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tme_NC3tusCXhwvEz_CaATx9nVp0IN4i-Pf4m0DVA2I/edit#

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Is this how I choose to show up?

Is this how I choose to show up?  No.

I’m exhausted.  I’m just trying to survive here and today I did that.  Not every today. But I did this today. Yes.

Is this how I choose to show up?  No.

I’m doing better than surviving but am I a good person?  Did I do the right thing? Will I be going to heaven or hell for this.  Is this how I choose to show up? Yes. I did the right thing. If I survive or not, I know I did the right thing.

Is this how I choose to show up?  No.

I’ve aligned myself to the right people.  If I follow them, then I know I’m a good person.  They can help me survive. But are they the right people?  How would I know? Yes. This is right. The gods are with us.  And even if they aren’t, they can’t hate me for being on the side of the right people.  The gods might smite us for being wrong. The gods might be on our side. I might survive being on this side, I might not.  Yes. This is right.

Is this how I choose to show up?  No.

I’m working in a team.  We are building something for all of us.  We are ordered and structured, that’s part of why the world is safe, because of our order.  I don’t know if it’s the right people but at least we are working together. And hey – it’s a job, it’s worth it to do good work.  It’s pay. It’s enough to survive. But is it enough for me? Am I getting what I want? Maybe if I knew better. The science, the tests to run I could get this team working better.  How do I do that? Yes. It’s okay, I’ve got this how I am. I might not survive but at least I’m part of this big idea, and through this big idea I survive. It’s not that the gods might smite us, we are the gods now.  We make the ideas. We live or die by the ideas we make and if they survive the long haul. It’s us against the gods of time. And of course the other people’s big ideas. Maybe our idea beats their idea by sheer will of structure, and I have all the right people with me, and even if I didn’t, that’s okay too I guess.  Maybe we aren’t right, and I’m okay with that too, as long as we try. In the true arena of ideas, the best ideas win. Yes.

Is this how I choose to show up?  No.

I’m running the tests.  I’m getting that recognition for being right in the ways I’m right.  In all the ways I know, I know that I’m doing well. All that unknown, it’s not safe, but I’m coming to conquer it.  I have my team, but I don’t need them, they follow me because I’m right. I’m aligned with the right person, because the right person is me, and with god as my witness I will make it.  But am I doing enough for everyone else too? Yes. I am doing my best.

I’m here to survive.  Capitalism is key. It’s a system and I’m making my system to win.  The gods of old are no match for the gods of the seed of pure corporate power.  My corporate gods battling out in the free market against the other corporate gods for our survival.  It’s me against nature, but it’s not just mother nature any more, the forest lands are long gone. She was soft, but human nature.  That’s the battle. It needs shaping, it needs guiding, it needs advertising and convincing. That’s how we get them. One group at a time.  May the best human win. As long as they have those close to them. That’s the seat of my power. The people around me. And the people around them.  And the people who are here to build something, build something that matters to us. And make ourselves rich in the process. Yes. This is how I show up.

Is this how I choose to show up?  No.

I’m consulting, I’m connected, I’m empathic and understanding.  I’m listening like never before. I refuse to fall for the mistakes of the past.  It’s not just about knowing the truth, it’s about sharing the truth. When we share our truth, our ideas, our science, The things we build together.  That’s how we grow together. Ever upwards. As a community we can reach the top. The place of legends. We can get ourselves back there, to the place of legends.  We too can be in tune with our nature and find new wholeness of being.

We have to defend our truth against those who are greedy.  The world was not meant to be taken from the many by the few.  We need to purge the poison from our midst. We do that together.  Big structure is our enemy. We need the right amount of anarchy to fix this.  It takes a bit of terror to break a broken system. Working together as small collective, we can rise up against the gods of oppression, Moloch and the tragedy of the commons.  Together we make the world a better place. For not just me and you, but everyone who ever is or was oppressed. We can make the world they died for. Yes. This is how I choose to show up.

Is this how I choose to show up?  No.

It’s not enough.  I look at myself and everywhere I’ve passed through and it’s not enough.  I can’t just survive, I need more than that to make purpose. I can’t just worship a benevolent god.  If the gods are benevolent they are irrelevant, and in that irrelevance, they made their own noose. The gods have to be here with me or they don’t deserve to be here.  I can’t just follow the people who I think are right. I’ve followed enough wrong people to know. People aren’t just right on their own, people are right by having the right ideas.  And the right ideas only come from collaboration. From working together. But that’s not enough either. Working together breeds corruption, broken systems. I have to worship science, rationalism, the free market.  Doing my own experiments. Leading my own path. But that’s not enough. The free market sold out the environment. My science deluded me, replication crisis and terrible statistics. What if I delude everyone? I can run more tests but no matter how many tests I run, I can never eliminate the human factor.  The human factor seems to be the cause and solution to all our problems. If only there were a way to fully embody all that it is to be the human factor and know what it is to be human and still grow. No. It’s hideous. The nature of humans is all this. At all levels. And so I ask myself, today. Is this how I choose to show up?  Yes.

I survive.  Not by worshipping the gods, but by becoming them.  I lead the people. Not on my own, but with my ideas, by fully embodying my ideas, I become my ideas, my gods.  By collaborating with my collective. And it’s not just my ideas, it’s the scientific and rational truth. We stand on the shoulders of giants to look forward.  And it’s not just the truth, it’s the truth for everyone. And by living and breathing the truth for everyone, comfortable, uncomfortable truth.

I can step out of my human nature and see, for the first time, clearly, where I came from.  And where I am going. I can see how all the parts of me, engage with all the parts of you, and we, and us.  

I live and embody the question, “is this how I choose to show up?”.  This is how I choose to show up. In the question, the paragraph, in the page, in the wonder, in the being ever forward facing.  Yes. THIS IS where I am. Yes THIS IS where I came from. And yes. I’m not done. Yes. This is how I choose to show up.

Is this how I choose to show up?  Yes. No. Not in the answer, but in the question, “is this how I choose to show up?”

Picture from the new Spiral Dynamics In action book.

Thanks for reading.

If this post is cryptic, its because I’ve picked up the developmental psychology model of spiral dynamics and it’s still growing on me.

“Is this how I choose to show up?”, falls into the category of something of a mantra. Also the phrase falls into the category of strange esoteric knowledge that came to me while meditating.

For those interested in chakras, the phrase has an alignment to the chakra system that just so happens to be beautiful. It also has an alignment to [Past|Present|Future], so it becomes a particularly orienting phrase. (“is this” – past, “How I choose” – present, “To show up?” – future)

I’m asking myself this question, and when I find the answer, I ask myself again.

Cross posted to lesswrong: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/cr9S7AJiryazXpikF/is-this-how-i-choose-to-show-up

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(meetup question) How to be happy?

I attended a philosophy meetup and needed a topic on the fly. I asked the question “how to be happy?”. The best part was how the first person tore the question open and answered a better question because happy doesn’t make sense. It’s got more to do with contentment or well being or meaning than caring about a subjective happy mood state that we can get into based on some criteria. Some moments are Sad and should be sad. That’s a good thing, I don’t want to make myself happy in situations where sadness is appropriate.

After that line of thinking died down, we went on to find more pieces of the puzzle. As we can expect, each person had different parts of the puzzle that were more and less important. I struggle to find any of these answers wrong, and it’s remarkable how much each person can know and bring to a discussion. 

Here’s the list of suggestions on, “how to be happy?”:

  • deal with trauma in a healthy way
  • be content, don’t aim for happy
  • be aware and stay inside my comfort zone
  • do plenty of learning
  • avoid being focused on pleasing others
  • find a balance
  • sleep
  • be productive
  • understand emotions and how to work with them
  • self understanding
  • watch out for alcohol
  • seek things you know will make you happy
  • crying as a release
  • be aware of what doesn’t make you happy
  • reduce the gap between expectation and reality
  • gratitude/appreciation practices
  • remove negative thoughts
  • ignore other people’s opinions of you
  • being proved wrong about bad things
  • wallowing in sadness (is sometimes good)
  • interpersonal connections
  • threshold around being content
  • introspective awareness of contentment
  • let go of negative things

I didn’t get to stay for too long pestering them all to generate answers but I appreciate all the contributions I did get. For me I rest in the question. I feel like there isn’t one answer, there is only good questions.

What more is possible?

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This is an experimental investigation of map and territory.

Map and territory is a relationship where the map represents the territory.. The map is not the territory, that we know.

Scribbling on the map does not change the territory

I am in my house, sitting at a table with a picture of planet earth. There’s a relationship between the picture and myself because technically I am in that picture map. But also I am looking at that picture and I recognise it as a map of the territory that I live in. There’s a boundary between me and the map.

Now I have a map of the land mass of Australia. I am both in a territory represented by the map, and this map describes me (weakly).

Now I have a map of my city. There’s again the same relationship. Two ways. I am in my city, but also my city map is separate from me because it sits on my table in front of me.

now I have a map (floorplan) of my house.

I am looking at a piece of paper, the map is external to the territory of me walking around my house.

Now I have a 3d model of my house. It includes the table I’m standing in front of, and a mini version of all my maps on the table, and a 3d house model.

there’s a boundary where I am looking at the map and not in the map.

but I’ve also got a little figurine of myself in my 3d model. My figurine appears to be looking at the mini 3d model of the house that’s resting on his table. There’s a boundary here. A relationship between me and the model.

where I am looking at an external model of myself looking at an external model of myself.

But now I am here. In my head. With an internal map of myself, standing here, looking at myself in the wholeness of my being, and I ask,

“where is the boundary between myself and the map?”

Now might be a good time to pause or reflect on the exercise before reading on.  Obviously I can’t make you do that but I considered ending the whole article here for that effect.

Some Discussion

Friend: would it be that you is what remains when you turn away from the map. If it’s in your mind, then you remain when you stop thinking of the map?

Me: “what is the “you” that remains when “you” stop thinking of the map?

Friend: If we define identity the way I think you’re pointing at, then the you constantly changes. So, sure, that “you” is no longer there when you turn away from the map.

Me: Yes. From that place, repeating the exercise, the new map now includes that information “the ‘you’ always changes“. And I can ask the same question. “what is the you that remains separate from the map?”

Existing map-less is very hard. The human brain really likes to put maps around things. I will be thinking, “I am map-less” and then realise that “thinking, ‘I am map-less'” is a map too. There is a realisation that there is only one real territory (that we live in), and it’s very hard to exist in the territory and not the map. And a further realisation that, for everyone else who exists in their maps and not “in the territory” they are also just genuinely existing in the territory too because maps are in the territory too.

From that place can come an acceptance of anyone and anything as they are. Being as their being is, bringing what they bring. Because that’s (from my perspective, from the outside that person) the territory.

I feel like this exercise has the opportunity to generate weird feelings. Sometimes confusion, sometimes fear or dizzy or any number of other experiences. That’s the point. The purpose is to then enable the experimenter to explore the feelings that have come up. What does that mean for the nature of reality that I live in. What’s the dizzy trying to help explain to me? I wonder what is going on.

Special mention of the book No Boundary by Ken Wilbur of Integral Theory

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